Timber Framed Bunk Beds, Part 1: The Plans

Last year, my wife warned me that the kids were growing out of their cribs and toddler beds, and that we would need to build them some bunk beds this summer.  I started drawing up plans.  The criteria:

  • A three-tier bunk bed to fit under the 9′ ceiling in the girls’ room
  • Sturdy rails all the way around on every level
  • Built-in shelves on each level, for alarm clocks, tissue boxes, books, etc.
  • Built with two-by pine from the lumberyard
  • Able to be disassembled, in the event that we move before the kids abandon the beds

I opted for something like a timber-framed design: through mortise & tenon joints on each end and lapped dovetails for the side rails.  The lapped dovetails will not be glued but will be “pinned” with carriage bolts so that the bed can be taken apart.  There will be 24 mortise & tenon joints and 26 lapped dovetails, plus 12 dadoes, all to be cut by hand.

On the appointed day, I took the seats out of the minivan, drove down to the lumberyard, and picked through their 2X4s and 2X6s.  (I don’t know where this lumberyard gets their wood, but their #2 southern yellow pine is some of the best I’ve seen.  Many 2X6s are dead straight and have hardly a knot in their entire length.)  We loaded the lumber in the pouring rain.

Normally I would let this lumber rest inside for a few days to let it acclimate before using it.  But this is timber framing, not fine cabinetry.  That means I’ll begin building with the lumber immediately.  If I work efficiently, the wood will not have time to shrink (much) before it’s put together.

Plus, my wife refuses to have a pile of rough lumber just siting in our dining room for any longer than it has to.

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4 Responses to Timber Framed Bunk Beds, Part 1: The Plans

  1. do you really thing that few days are enough for the timber acclimatation? (correct world is equilibtium)
    for that dimension you would attend a month or two!
    regards

    • The short answer is yes, it’s enough. This isn’t fine cabinetry, where fluctuations of 1/8″ would be catastrophic. So long as the joints fit together, the structure will stand.

  2. I agree with you with this consideration, anyway you wrote: “Normally I would let this lumber rest inside for a few days to let it acclimate before using it”….
    so, normally, few days are not enough to reach an equilibrium.
    nice project indeed! I look anxiously for the results!

    • Ah, I see what you mean. In the spring and fall, my windows are open and the temperature/humidity are the same inside and out. In the winter, the difference is not great. Only in the summer is there a drastic difference between the indoor and outdoor. temperature/humidity.

      And around here, “a few days” could be anything between 2 and 20…

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